Welcome to Santa Cruz County Office of Emergency Services

495 Upper Park Road
Santa Cruz, CA
Phone: (831) 458-7150
Fax: (831) 458-7139

Office Hours:
M-F 8:00 a.m to 12:00 Noon
1:00 p.m.
to 5:00 p.m.

Tsunami Inundation Maps:



What is a Tsunami?

A tsunami is a series of waves most commonly caused by an earthquake beneath the sea floor. In the open ocean, tsunami waves travel at speeds of up to 600  miles per hour. As the waves enter the shallow water, they may rise rapidly. The waves can kill and injure people and cause great property damage where they come ashore. The first wave is often not the largest; successive waves may be spaced many minutes apart and continue arriving for a number of hours.

Locally Generated Tsunami

If a large earthquake displaces the sea floor near the coast, the first waves may reach the shore minutes after the ground stops shaking. There is not time for authorities to issue a warning.

Distant Source Tsunami

Tsunami waves may also be generated by very large earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean. These waves reach the California coast many hours after the earthquake. The Tsunami Warning Center alerts local officials, who may order evacuation. Those in isolated areas may not hear official evacuation announcements. A sudden drop or rise in sea level may be a warning of impending danger. Move inland or to higher ground immediately.

Where and when do tsunamis occur?

Tsunamis can occur at any time of day or night, under any and all weather conditions, and in all seasons.  Beaches open to the ocean, bay mouths or tidal flats, and the shores of large coastal rivers are especially vulnerable to tsunamis.

What is a low-lying area and how high is high ground?

Typical peak wave heights from large tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean over the last 80 years have been between 21 and 45 feet at the shoreline. A few waves, however, have been higher locally- as much as 100 feet in a few isolated locations.

The best general advice available today is to:

  • Go to an area 100 feet above sea level, if possible, or go up to two miles inland. If you can not get this high or far, go as high and far as you can.  Every foot inland or upwards may make a difference.

  • Go on foot if at all possible because traffic, damage roads, downed power lines, and other earthquake debris

How do I know when to evacuate?

A major tsunami-producing earthquake will likely shake the ground strongly for at least 20 seconds. Get into the habit of counting how long the earthquake shaking lasts. If you count 20 seconds of strong ground shaking, evacuate as soon as it is safe to do so.

What can I do ahead of time?

  • Make disaster plans now. Talk to the people you live with about what may happen during a strong earthquake. If you live or work in a low-lying coastal area, know where to go to survive a tsunami. Hold earthquake /tsunami drills at home or at work.

  • Assemble a portable disaster supply kit. Have a kit available in your car; at home and at work. Your kit should include:

    • A Portable Radio with Fresh Batteries

    • Water

    • First Aid Kit

    • Flashlight &

    • Extra Clothing or a Blanket

  • Put your kit in a backpack and leave it in a convenient place.

  • Contact local emergency officials. Find out what areas are most safe, and which routes are best for evacuation.

  • Take a first aid class. Learn survival skills, talk with your family

  • Join a neighborhood emergency response team. Contact your local Office of Emergency Services. 


  • Never go to the Coast to watch for a tsunami if you hear that a warning has been issued. Tsunamis move faster than a person can run. Any incoming traffic in the coastal area hampers safe and timely evacuation.

  • Tsunamis are not surfable! They are not V-shaped or curling waves. large tsunamis most frequently come onshore as a rapidly rising turbulent surge of water choked with debris.

  • All tsunamis are potentially dangerous, though they may not damage every coastline they strike.

  • Our coastlines are vulnerable. Understand the hazard and learn how to protect yourself.

This information can be obtained in Spanish by calling the Santa Cruz County Office of Emergency Services at (831) 458-7180. 

La Oficina de Servicios de Emergencia del condado de Santa Cruz tiene personal que habla Espaņol, por favor llamar al numero telephonico (831) 458-7180. 

Please send any comments or email to  Office of Emergency Services


The County of Santa Cruz makes no representations or warrants as to the suitability of this information for your particular purpose, and that to the extent you use or implement this information in your own setting you do so at your own risk. The information provided herewith is solely for your own use and cannot be sold. In no event will the County of Santa Cruz be liable for any damages whatsoever, whether direct, consequential, incidental, special or on claim for attorney fees arising out of the use of or inability to use the information provided herewith.